I would say no. To me, this is a case of the readers not reading carefully (or thoroughly) enough. The character's motivation, including her need for secrecy, is fully spelled out by the end of the novel. It's all there in black and white, but these readers just didn't see it or didn't read that far. A novel is a collaboration between the author's imagination and the imaginative powers of each of reader, and all you as a writer can do is uphold your end of the bargain.

FF: You mentioned that STEALING FACES debuted as an ebook. Can you tell us about your experience with the e-publishing industry? Would you do it that way again? What are the pros/cons of e-publishing? How does one market an electronically published book to a traditional publishing house?

MP: The book made its debut as a RocketEdition from Rocket eBooks. It was the first novel, I think, ever to premiere in this format -- that is, to appear as an electronic edition before its print publication date. At least that's what they told me. Frankly, I had nothing to do with this deal other than to rubber-stamp the contract, so I can't give any advice on marketing to electronic publishers. My publisher (Signet) and my agent did all of that for me. The book sold well as an e-book; it was number one on the RocketEdition list for quite a while, outselling even the Bible! (It feels blasphemous to say so, but it's the truth.) But since there are still only a couple of thousand Rocket eBook devices in circulation, the actual number of book sales in this format was trivial ... maybe a couple hundred copies (i.e., downloads) in all. Right now, if you want to make any money, you still need to go the traditional route -- paper, ink, binding, the works. The main value of the RocketEdition deal was that it got STEALING FACES some publicity.

FF: Tell us all about STEALING FACES, your upcoming novel. When is it due out? What is it about?

MP: The print edition of STEALING FACES appears in mid-September of 1999 as a mass-market paperback original from Signet Books. It also is available in hardcover through the Mystery Guild, where it is a Featured Selection, and the Doubleday Book Club. STEALING FACES is quite different from COMES THE DARK. It's a much faster book, for one thing, and it does not deal with mythological themes. Instead, it takes a look at the issue of materialism in the modern world. By materialism, I don't mean the desire for money and property; I mean it in the philosophical sense -- the view that everything can be explained by purely mechanistic theories. With regard to humanity, it's the view that our accomplishments, thoughts, feelings, even our sense of self--all the things that make us human -- are nothing but the result of genetic programming and evolutionary adaptation, or "instincts and chemicals," as a character puts it in the book.

I asked myself what would happen if this view were carried to its logical extreme. The result is the villain of the story, John Cray, who regards only the animalistic traits of his fellow human beings as fully genuine, fully real. To "unmask" other humans, he reduces them to their animal essence, stripping away the veneer of civilization and consciousness. He treats his victims as animals, hunting them in the desolate wilderness outside Tucson, Arizona. He kills them and takes their faces as grotesque trophies--symbols of the artificial self he has peeled away. But one night, while trolling for a new victim, he becomes aware that he himself is being stalked. A woman is following him. A woman who is a stranger . . .or is she?

The story goes from there, as we learn who this woman is and how her life intersects with Cray's. It develops very quickly into a cat-and-mouse game between two unequally matched adversaries-the seasoned, sociopathic killer and the shy, scared woman determined to bring him to justice any way she can.  That's the basic idea of STEALING FACES. Look for it in a bookstore (or at an online bookseller) near you! Or if you want more information, visit my website.

Thanks for all your questions. I've enjoyed sharing my thoughts, and I hope some of my answers have been at least somewhat helpful to other writers.



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